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RealTime IT News

Sun Aims Education Initiative at Microsoft

Sun Microsystems' ding-dong battle with Microsoft for command of the market for word processing software took another step forward Monday with the launch of a massive education initiative and an expansion of its no-cost StarOffice licensing plan.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun lifted the wraps off the Sun Education Software (EduSoft) Portfolio initiative that offers access to a range of technologies with no-cost licenses for education and research institutions.

The move comes just days after rival Microsoft wooed the academic world with the release of Visual Studio .NET 2003 Academic Edition to U.S. schools and signals a larger shift by the tech heavyweights to cozy up to open-source and education institutions to win acceptance for their respective software.

For Sun, which is positioning its StarOffice 6.0 word processing suite to work on Solaris SPARC, Linux and Windows OS environments, the single software license puts its technologies at the fingertips of more than 100,000 users within the academic community. The value of the offering, exceeds $1 billion, the company said.

Adding to the free licensing momentum, Sun is the only vendor to offer a complete Web-based curriculum for its productivity software, at no cost to the education and research community," the company boasted.

The EduSoft initiative lets teachers, students and campus IT staff evaluate, test and develop applications with Sun's range of software and offers discounts and free Web-based training curriculum for eligible institutions

EduSoft, which becomes available in March, allows access to such Sun products as the Solaris 9 Operating Environment, SunONE starter kit, SunONE Studio, Sun ONE Web Services Development products, GNOME and StarOffice software.

It is not the first time Sun has opted to free up its software to win fans for its software. Last September, the company's StarOffice giveaway program was extended in schools throughout Europe and South Africa.

The StarOffice software is being billed as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Normally, StarOffice retails for home users at $75.95, but it is free for educational institutions. Because it interoperates with other desktop suites, including MS Office, Sun is hoping to gain traction by engaging in a price war with the Redmond-based behemoth.

Winning fans among open-source advocates is a crucial part of Sun's strategy to compete with Microsoft. Sun's OpenOffice community is aimed at creating an office suite that will run all major platforms. More importantly, it lets companies disgruntled with Microsoft test the waters for cheaper (and sometimes free) open-source alternatives.